Avid Torch readers know that FIRE is keenly focused on winning the legal fight against violations of the rights of students and faculty members. Including myself, FIRE has six attorneys on staff, and we author legal scholarship, analyze court rulings, pen amicus briefs, and coordinate precedential litigation in defense of core constitutional liberties on campus, like our victory at San Francisco State University.
Given the preponderance of lawyers doing lawyerly things, I’ve found that quite often people are surprised to learn that FIRE does not directly litigate or represent students and faculty in court. While FIRE does indeed coordinate litigation, we’re not in the courtrooms ourselves, filing briefs and motions. Instead, we rely on our nationwide Legal Network to come to the direct aid of students and faculty who need legal assistance.
FIRE’s Legal Network is a collection of affiliated attorneys nationwide who share FIRE’s concerns about free speech, due process, and legal equality on campus—and we’re always very happy to add new recruits.
Being a member of the Legal Network is simple, free of both cost and hassle, and largely informal. There are no dues, requirements, or other commitments. Instead, membership in the Legal Network simply entails receiving case referral e-mails from time to time about FIRE cases across the country that we believe merit legal attention. The level of attorney involvement can range from a simple letter of inquiry to full litigation. Some of the cases involve requests for pro bono legal assistance; others involve potentially large damage awards and/or an award of attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party. In still other cases, the clients may be able to pay for all or part of the legal services rendered. Of course, Legal Network members are under no obligation to accept a case that is referred to them for consideration. It’s entirely up to the attorney to decide whether or not to seek more information about the anonymous case referrals FIRE will send out on occasion.
If you’re an attorney interested in helping FIRE defend fundamental civil liberties on campus as part of our Legal Network, we’d love to hear from you.